October 27, 2016

Mastaba.

I learned a new word: Mastaba. I was reading about the artist Christo, who has a project in Abu Dhabi, a permanent sculpture called "The Mastaba." It's something he's worked on, he says, for 40 years, "a massive sculpture that would comprise some 410,000 barrels."

"Mastaba" reminds me of a familiar English word, but I couldn't imagine something playfully sexual coming from Christo and getting built in Abu Dhabi. And, indeed...
A mastaba... is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides.... These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt's Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom.... The word 'mastaba' comes from the Arabic word for a bench of mud, and when seen from a distance a mastaba does resemble a bench....

The mastaba housed a statue of the deceased that was hidden within the masonry for its protection. High up the walls of the serdab [cellar] were small openings that would allow the ba [soul] to leave and return to the body (represented by the statue); Ancient Egyptians believed the ba had to return to its body or it would die. These openings "were not meant for viewing the statue but rather for allowing the fragrance of burning incense, and possibly the spells spoken in rituals, to reach the statue."

15 comments:

Darrell said...

So, so, very ,very Althouse.
It's practically Althousian.

SteveM said...

The first Egyptian pyramid-- the step pyramid-- was constructed by arranging several mastabas on top of each other.

tom swift said...

I actually knew this word.

Which is ridiculous. I really, really should get out more often.

Wilbur said...

It's great to learn a new word. Not many Scrabble points, though.

Now I know why my neighbor said his mud bench brought him such mastabatory pleasure. There's a reason to read this blog; it brings it all together.

Lyle Smith said...

At least today we don't all have to build a pyramid of mastabas for the powers that be.

Unknown said...

I think Althouse needed to play more games. The very popular city management/sim games Caesar and its successor Pharaoh (and expansion Cleopatra) from the late 90's had as one of the main goals building.... mastabas.

Pretty good game, you can find it on GOG.com. Who wouldn't want to be Pharaoh?

--Vance

traditionalguy said...

It looks like the structure Bill Clinton has atop his Presidential Library in Little Rock. But I believe he calls it his Fuck Place.You cannot see in from outside, but the roof has holes that allow the intern screams out.

gerry said...

The ba ain't nothin' without the ka.

Big Mike said...

I knew the word because reading the "Amelia Peabody" novels of Elizabeth Peters has been one of my guilty pleasures.

mikee said...

I was reminded of Masada, a completely different thing, but also interesting.

Meeeea said...

Not to be confused with "Basta":
https://twitter.com/iParrhesia/status/791685931266875396

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whswhs said...

When I see the word "mastaba" it makes me think of James James, who wrote, in Finnegans Wake (in Chapter One, I believe), "Mastabatomb, mastabadtom, when a man marries his lute is all long."

whswhs said...

Excuse me, "James James." Fingers on automatic!

whswhs said...

What the hell? That last name is supposed to be "Joyce." I'm going to type the full name again and see if it auto-edits to something else, or if I'm just not all here: James Joyce. James Joyce. There, I've typed the last name correctly twice. . . .